Siddharth Singh got lucky in his third attempt, winning the silver medal at the World Masters Jiu Jitsu Championship 2021 (Brown Belt, 77 kg, Masters Division) held at Abu Dhabi last month. With this, he became the first Indian to win a medal in the World Masters tournament and to receive the highest ever medal by any Indian at the World championships.
"My previous two attempts were in Russia where I had narrowly missed the podium," recalls Singh (35), adding that the hard work put in by his coaches made him stand up to some very good fighters from Brazil, Columbia and Kazakhstan.
Singh trains two hours daily in Jiu Jitsu, for six days a week at Crosstrain Fight Club (at Saket and Noida centres). "For the World Championship, I had an additional one month fight camp (run five days a week) with the strength and conditioning coach Deepak KC, which strengthened my mind to face any challenge," he says.
Singh forayed into boxing at Doon School at 12. The fact that his brother was already into boxing at the same school helped. By the time he reached Class 12, he had become proficient, and was awarded the Most Technical Boxer of the school.
At 21, after graduating in Economics (honours) from Delhi University, Singh joined University of St Andrews, Scotland, UK, for an MSc in Economics, wherein he discovered Muay Thai (Thai KickBoxing). "In this form of martial art, apart from punches, one also throws elbow strikes, knees and kicks. I was smitten by it," he says, adding that he stumbled upon Jiu Jitsu once when the Muay Thai academy conducted a Jiu Jitsu seminar.
Initially, he wasn’t interested as Jiu Jitsu is ground fighting, while he was a ‘striker’ who liked to punch and kick.
"But my coach forced me to 'spar' with a small girl, a blue belt in Jiu Jitsu, and half my size. I thought I could easily control her, but she choked me unconscious in no time. I tried 'sparring' with her again, and this time I went really hard. But she choked me unconscious again. Impressed, I became a practitioner of BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) straightaway," he says.
In Jiu Jitsu, Singh is mostly self-taught, with a little help from stalwarts Jahangir (who trained at the UK), Ivan Tomasetti (a Black Belt working at the Italian embassy in Delhi) and Eliot Kelly (a Jiu Jitsu champion from USA who taught a seminar at Crosstrain).
The sheer lack of training facilities for the sport made Singh set up a Crosstrain Fight Club in Delhi in 2012. "BJJ is still in its infancy in India. We have to educate students that Jiu Jitsu is actually a mandatory aspect of MMA (Mixed Martial Art), and one can’t be successful at the sport without it. The future seems bright. The ADCC (Abu Dhabi Combat Club), the most prestigious Jiu Jitsu tournament in India, held its first two events and over 300 fighters competed in it," informs Singh.
One reason to start the Crosstrain Fight Clubs in India, he says, was to address the rising attacks against women. "We have trained over 5,000 women in self-defence since 2012, and I hope in the next 10 years we cross 20,000," Singh adds. Singh also mentors young fitness franchise owners, helping them turn their start-ups into successful business ventures.